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  • Writer's pictureAdam Stanford

Plantin' Trees

Updated: Apr 22, 2022

A few weeks ago, my laptop case broke and I began the search of finding a new one. Typically, I purchase a blank, bright colored case and add stickers from my favorite fandom, tech company, or whatever comes in the box of my countless conquests. Over the past few months, I have been convicted what effects my consumeristic nature has had on me and how I have perpetuated it to others (hasn’t stopped me much….) This time I thought I’d at least try something different, and if I had to make a purchase, engage my right brain a little bit more, so I got a cover with van Gogh’s Starry Night. I don’t know why I was drawn to it (probably my consumeristic nature kicking in!) but as I spent time looking at it, I began to notice something.

The trees in the foreground look a lot like the church in the center of the sleepy little village in the shadows, both pointing to the heavens. Does this mean something? I don’t know, I spent most of my time during Arts in Western Civ. scrolling through Facebook (sorry Dr. Veltman!) But it at least got me thinking and I was reminded of a passage I was reading about Abraham and his tree.

In Genesis 21, after his treaty and building of the well of Beer Sheba, it says that he plants a tree and there he worshipped the Lord (Genesis 21:33). It wasn’t an altar like he had built in the past, this was something different.

Was it for worship? Was it to memorialize his treaty? Was it to mark the place of the well? This got my brain churning, and I began to ask myself why we plant trees. Some trees are for decoration. Others to mark property lines or roadways. Some to bear fruit. Last summer we realized the house cooling importance of the river birch that once shaded the sunny side of our house before the “hurricanader” took it out in 2019. As I looked outside, I saw the two Bradford pears in front of our house that marked the passing of my grandfather. Trees, trees everywhere, and I kept seeing more.

One phenomenon I began noticing in our rural countryside was large fields with a single wide-reaching tree in the center. That had to mean something, right? What are the chances of completely cleared fields to have a fully grown cultivated tree at its core? As I thought through my dad’s stories of the old days, I remember they likely served one of two purposes.

If it was a cattle field, it was a shade tree for them get out of the sun, or if was a crop field, it was a place for the workers to find shade and water rest during the heat of working.

Rest. They were for rest. Was that why Abraham plant the tree? So that those in the field could find water and shade during their work? Rest? He could have built a large structure. He could have built a flourishing business selling the best water in town. But he chose something that was slow growing, that required provisions of God and not the work of man, and something that would be there for years to come that provide rest for anyone who found it.

Isn’t that the very core of our worship? Each day after God completed a portion of His creation, He stopped, looked, and while it was not yet finished, He could rest in that work. And on the seventh, He created a specific time for rest: the Sabbath. Even one of the words for worship is proskuneo, which gives the image of a dog falling at its master’s feet. I may be reading too much into it, but I think of my dog. Every time I sit down in my recliner, she stops what she is doing, hops up in my lap, curls in a ball, and goes to sleep, knowing she can find rest. There is always work to be done. There are only 24 hours in a day. Storms are always coming. Seasons are always changing. Somewhere there is always a field to plant or a harvest to reap. On our own, nothing would ever be finished, but through it all we can rest on the completed work of Christ.

But what about the other trees? I find it interesting that just a few chapters over after Sarah’s death, Abraham needs a place to bury her and he purchases the cave at the end of the field he has been wondering and working. Not only that, but he is also able to purchase the field too. And guess what? It actually says “and all the trees that were in the field and all around its border.” (Genesis 23:17) Now, I know just enough about Hebrew texts and rabbinic techniques to know, this has to mean something, right? Why would they put in there that he purchased the trees unless there was a deeper purpose, barring it being documentation of the full transaction.

This makes me think of another death in scripture. One born from the family tree of Abraham. One who came to find the lost sheep of his tribe. However, He didn’t stop there! At his death, He purchased all the trees. He is cultivating them to His image and expects His fruit. He will graft in what is acceptable and will cut down what is not. This would be terrifying; except we know we can rest in Him. Trust Him is all he asks, for He is the great gardener, and knows exactly which branches to cut, which one to leave, which ones to use as a framework, which ones to use as a staff, and which ones to use as firewood.

But what about Abraham’s tree that he planted? What about the region of Beer Sheba? Is the well still there? Is the tree still living? What kind of tree was it?

Google searches and Wikipedia pages can be a bad late night rabbit hole to

go down (and not always the most accurate.) However, I found one page about the Oak of Mamre, an ancient oak that is legended to be the very tree that Abraham planted. Around it a Russian Orthodox monastery has been built. It is believed that when this tree dies, that the antichrist has arrived….welp…my night of sleep is over….cause the tree died and just before the pandemic and chaos hit and our world was forever changed, it collapsed! But here is what’s amazing, from that tree, one root survived, and from its rotting core, a sprout. Where there is a sprout, there is hope.


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